Evvy had been married for 42 years when she realized her husband was having another affair. This time it was with a woman some 1300 miles away in Toronto who he was working for. Like the other times, Evvy had to decide – should she stay in the marriage or leave?
First of all, I thought I would just wait until we both died. I mean, we’re both so old I thought how much longer? Enough already! I thought maybe he’ll die in a few years and that would be the solution.
Then I looked to my son. He and his wife have a very happy marriage but they take good care of it. They go to a counselor whenever they feel they are in crisis. One time the counselor said these are the alternatives: you can get divorced, you can do this or you can do that. My son said he looked at his wife and thought ‘I can’t get divorced. I can’t leave this woman: I’ll never see my children again the way I see them now. I’ll go through whatever it takes for us to stay together.’
So I walked myself through the exercise. ‘Let’s think this through. I’m sitting here and my husband is not here. I’m as free as a bird and I can do what I like. I’ll never have to see him again.’ And my response was, ‘Yes!’
It was absolutely unquestionable that I was so ready not to have to live with him anymore and that was a very helpful moment. In fact, I always say, that by disappearing with this woman in Toronto, he taught me to live by myself again. I realized how nice it was living on my own and how little I wanted him to come home when he did come. Then I could look ahead and think, ‘OK, I don’t care what it takes, I will survive.’ I was miserable sometimes with him so if I was miserable sometimes I would be miserable. Marriage certainly doesn’t bring eternal happiness.
Once I decided I would get a divorce, I told my husband he had to move out and all of a sudden I began to feel free again. He was a very difficult person, as I’m sure a lot of ex-husbands are. Very critical, very demanding. I sort of acquiesced to work around it which was my survival mode. Everything had to be his way so there was this enormous sense of freedom when he was no longer in the house.
I felt much stronger. I could have what I wanted for breakfast. I could eat dinner whenever I felt like it instead of planning this meal together. I got a dog, it was lovely. And there were moments when I felt I was 25 again and the world was my oyster.
There are two common threads in Evvy’s story. I have a hunch that thinking your partner will die is a common thought among spouses in troubled marriages. I think it’s a ‘decision-avoidance’ thought – dealing with death just seems like it would be simpler than confronting divorce. You would be reacting to a situation rather than having to actively participate and perhaps be the catalyst. And certainly, there would be no arguments with your spouse. In reality, I’m not sure if it would be simpler especially if there are young children involved. And while death is certain, the timing is not and why spend that time being miserable?
The second thread is that incredible feeling of freedom some of us experience – Sue speaks of feeling waves of euphoria and I know there were days when I was going through my divorce when I would feel six inches taller and energy flowing through my limbs. Those were the days when I’d email my two friends with the subject heading, “I love my life.”
Were there ever times when you thought may be your spouse would die and you wouldn’t have to deal with divorce? What made you realize there wasn’t going to be an easy option?